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City responds to Grand Jury

Report critical of police chief's resignation
By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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Lincoln’s city council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to accept City Manager Matt Brower’s response to the 2017 Placer County Grand Jury report, which criticized the city’s handling of the resignation of Police Chief Rex Marks last year.

The report, titled “Lincoln City Government Transparency: What happened to our police chief? The people want to know,” was released June 19.

Brower, in a letter to Placer County Superior Court Judge Colleen Nichols, said the city disagrees with the findings of the grand jury.

Regarding the discrepancy between Marks’ employment agreement and his entitlement to severance pay if he resigned, Brower wrote, “The city resolved its personnel matters with the former police chief by a settlement agreement to resolve any issues, including the chief’s resignation and the terms of that resignation. The city did not simply pay severance benefits to a former employee upon his resignation.”

On the issue of a lack of transparency, Brower wrote, in part, “the city recognizes that transparency is a cornerstone of good governance, and to that end disclosed all documents related to the separation of the police chief except those that were classified as confidential personnel information and otherwise protected by state law.”

Brower added that, “the city has always publicly stated that it would release the agreement pursuant to an order of the court. Absent such an order, the city does not believe it can legally produce the Settlement Agreement.”

Regarding the grand jury’s recommendation that Lincoln adhere to all terms of employment agreements they negotiate and not make generous settlements when not required and justified, Brower wrote, in part, “the separation of the police chief was a unique situation that required a negotiated settlement agreement. The city does adhere to its contracts and seeks to resolve personnel matters in the city’s best interest.”

Brower also wrote that the city would not implement the grand jury’s second recommendation, to release the settlement agreement with Marks, because it “is not warranted and unreasonable.”

Marks received nearly $85,000 in severance benefits after resigning from city employment July 1, 2016.

Marks resigned, following an independent investigation into concerns brought to Brower by the Lincoln Peace Officers Association. Neither the concerns, nor the findings of the investigation, have been made public by Brower.

The severance package received by Marks included three months salary and accrued vacation and sick leave as well as an additional three months of vacation and sick leave, according to information received from Brower.

However, clause (f) in the employment agreement for Marks – under the heading Termination of Employment and Service – indicates the “Employee shall not be entitled to Severance if Employee voluntarily resigns.”

And, under clause (d), of the same section, the employment agreement indicates that “in the event the City Manager terminates Employee’s employment without cause, the City shall pay the Employee an amount equal to three (3) months aggregate salary and benefits (“Severance”). Severance shall be paid to Employee, less withholdings, in a lump sum upon termination.

The employment agreement was signed by Marks and former City Manager Jim Estep. Marks’ base salary was $138,371 per year.

Severance payments made to Marks, which covers three months’ salary and benefits, includes:

·         Three months salary at $37,412.13.

·         Payout, accrued vacation plus three months at $18,593.83.

·         Payout, accrued sick leave plus three months at $21,472.41.

·         Payout, health benefits at $4,817.76.

·         Phone allowance at $300.

·         Vehicle allowance at $1,620.

·         Uniform allowance at $450.

·         Total before withholding taxes at $84,666.13.

 

Fourth of July

In other council action, the balance of $3,418 owed to the city of Lincoln by the Fourth of July committee, for city services, was waived on a 5-0 vote.

 

Police Department

City Council also voted 5-0 to authorize Police Chief Doug Lee to sign a contract with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department to use a computerized voice stress analysis exam during background investigations for future applicants to the Lincoln Police Department. According to a report by Lee, the cost would be $200 to $275 per exam.

 

Public Services

 City Council also voted unanimously, 5-0, to approve two purchases for the Public Services Department: $206,275 for a solid waste collection truck and $16,999 for a Scissor Lift for the Parks and Facilities division of the Public Services Department.